Sitting inside the Denny’s Denny’s at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Sunday afternoon, Denny Hamlin had a million reasons to smile. There was a line of fans ready to meet their favorite driver stretched around the mobile diner, and Hamlin had an extra pep in his step.
One week after winning the Sprint All-Star Race and the $1 million prize that went along with it, Hamlin was in good spirits as he prepared for the longest race of the season.
Hamlin’s year to date has been a bit of a roller coaster. The Virginia native scored his first victory of the season at Martinsville Speedway, earning his spot in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field.
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However, he has also recorded six finishes of 22nd or worse.
Despite the up-and-down results, Hamlin believes his team is headed in the right direction and the poor finished are not indicative of how his cars are running.
"You’re going to get those kinds of finishes when you have a win â a buffer â because it’s all about winning and nothing else," Hamlin told FOXSport.com. "We take risks and we try things setup wise. The finishes of 22nd or worse are not because that’s where we ran; it’s because of mechanical failures or wrecks that took us out.
"I’m confident of where we’re at," he said. "We’re getting better as an organization. It showed up in the All-Star Race."
After his victory in the All-Star Race, questions were raised about Hamlin’s contract status with Joe Gibbs Racing. However, the driver of the No. 11 set the record straight, saying this is not a contract year.
"I’ve still got some time left on my deal," he said. "I’ve been with Gibbs for really a lot time. I’d hope to stay with them."
Would Hamlin ever entertain offers from other teams?
"As long as the Gibbs family will have me, I’ll stay there," he said.
JGR is on the upswing after sweeping the races at Charlotte Motor Speedway the past two weekends. With Hamlin winning the Sprint All-Star Race and teammate Carl Edwards earning his first victory with the organization in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the JGR bunch turned some heads and sent a message to the competition.
With three of the organization’s four drivers now locked into the Chase, Hamlin believes his team must spend the summer months preparing for the championship battle to come over the final 10 races of the year.
"We’re getting better as an organization. We try to run as best as we can in September; I think that’s the most important thing," Hamlin said. "The years we went on championship runs, it’s been because we performed at the right time.
"Last year we didn’t set the world on fire in the regular season, but we were consistent enough to get ourselves through each round of the Chase with a shot at the championship," he said. "I think you have to execute the same way, especially now that we have the win. We can rest a little easier and we can try things that will make us better in the long run."
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